Few Colorado events bring together two of the state’s favorite things, live music and craft beer, as harmoniously as keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth’s (The String Cheese Incident) annual Hoppy Holidays. This year’s beer festival-meets-concert featured Colorado bands Dragondeer, Kyle Hollingsworth Band, and Yonder Mountain String Band, along with nearly 30 local and national craft breweries.
The doors opened just after dark around 5:30pm, and the Fillmore Auditorium quickly filled with beer geeks of all ages eager to try some of the finest beers in the country. IPAs were an obvious favorite, particularly the soft, unfiltered hoppy ales known as New England-style IPAs; Cerebral Brewing’s Rare Trait, Odd13 Brewing’s Superfan and Intergalactic Juice Hunter, and New Terrain Brewing’s Golden Haze all drew large lines.
Shortly after the beer tasting began and following a brief introduction by Kyle Hollingsworth, Denver’s own Dragondeer hit the stage with their thick blues rock sound. Reminiscent of early Led Zeppelin, The Black Keys, and electric Taj Mahal, the quartet stunned the audience with their hybrid of Mississippi Delta blues and 1960s psychedelic rock. Lead vocalist, guitarist and harmonica player Eric Holberg led the band with a rare ferocity, his deep growl and swampy harmonica blending perfectly with Cole Rudy’s raw pedal steel playing. Shocking many in attendance and quickly catapulting onto the Denver scene, Dragondeer is a growing force to be reckoned with.
The Kyle Hollingsworth Band took the next slot, and they wasted no time getting the audience moving with Hollingswoth’s trademark organ-led funk. With many String Cheese Incident fans in the crowd, Kyle busted out “Let’s Go Outside” early in his set, stretching out the SCI staple in his own way. The band was then joined by Yonder Mountain String Band guitarist Adam Aijala and mandolinist Jake Jolliff for an instrumental take on the Grateful Dead’s “Cumberland Blues” that segued into a blistering, extended rendition of “Deal.” Both Aijala and Jolliff took lengthy solos on “Deal” before handing the reigns and the stage back to Hollingsworth. After a few more numbers, the band welcomed out another Yonder member, fiddler Allie Kral, for a rare bustout of The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly.” The cover was unbelievably tight, with Kral absolutely crushing the fiddle outro in perfect album form. With the energy in the auditorium impossibly high, the band rounded out the set with another pair of heaters, the funk-laced “Rosie” and another impeccable cover in Cake’s classic “Short Skirt Long Jacket.”
Thanks to YouTube user Kyle Isaac, you can enjoy the “Deal”collaboration with Jacob Jolliff and Adam Aijala below:
Watch “Baba O’Reily” with special guest Allie Kral, into “Short Skirt, Long Jacket”:
Watch the Kyle Hollingsworth Band perform “Here We Go”:
Closing out the night was Nederland’s own Yonder Mountain String Band. The Colorado bluegrass legends played a flawless set, tying together old and new material with apparent mastery. After a blistering take on “Casualty” off of their 2009 album The Show, the band dropped into the new fan-favorite “Bad Taste” from this year’s Love. Ain’t Love. Kyle Hollingsworth joined the band on stage moments later, sitting in with the band for a couple of songs. The keyboardist added a dynamic layer to the bluegrass band, meshing particularly well banjoist Dave Johnston and providing beautiful textures on “Black Sheep” and “Criminal.” Led by bassist Ben Kaufman’s low-end foundation and jovial between-song banter, the band pressed on with a handful of Yonder classics, including an appropriate “40 Miles from Denver” and a lengthy “Landfall,” before bidding farewell to a packed Fillmore Auditorium with a monster of an encore.
Watch Yonder Mountain String Band perform “Black Sheep” below:
Sister Golden Hair
Yonder Mountain String Band heads to Mexico next week, December 8th-11th for the Strings and Sol Festival, before returning to Colorado for New Year’s Shows in Breckenridge and Telluride on December 29th and 31st, respectively. The band then kicks off their 2018 Winter Tour on January 10th in State College, PA.